Forestry agreement details released by Liberals
Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry says he needs 6 weeks to determine if changes are needed
The provincial government has released the forestry agreements the former Progressive Conservative government signed with private companies, giving them increased access to trees on Crown land.
Department of Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry tabled the documents in the legislature on Wednesday morning, as promised by the Liberals during the recent election campaign.
"The previous process lacked transparency and failed to share information with the public when it comes to our Crown forests," Landry said in a statement.
“We believe that increased transparency will lead to better results in the forestry sector which will have economic and financial benefits for all New Brunswickers,” Landry said.
The government is currently reviewing the forestry plan, but Landry did not commit to making any significant changes.
He told reporters on Wednesday that he needs another six weeks to discuss any possible changes with his department and the government.
"What can be changed? I’m not sure if we are going to change something or leave it the way it is," Landry told reporters.
"One thing that I am almost sure is that we don’t want to go in court and fight with those big corporations."
The Natural Resources minister said he has spoken with representatives from J.D. Irving Ltd. He said the province's largest forestry company is also curious if there are going to be any changes in the plan.
J.D. Irving Ltd. has said it plans to start cutting at increased levels in February. Landry would not say if the company is willing to make changes.
"My concern is if there are substantial changes, it could result in job losses," Fitch said.
Green Party Leader David Coon said he is disappointed the government did not release J.D. Irving Ltd.'s 10-year industrial plan, which lays out how many mills will operate and how many people they will employ.
"That's key information that is totally relevant to this deal, because the former government justified the whole deal based on the number of jobs that would be created by J.D. Irving and the other companies," Coon said.
The government says industrial plans are always kept confidential for privacy reasons.
The controversial New Brunswick Forestry Plan allows a 20-per-cent increase in wood harvesting on public land and reduces the amount of forest set aside for conservation.
The released documents include the Forest Management Agreement, dated July 31, memorandums of agreement with J.D. Irving Ltd., Twin Rivers Ltd., and Chaleur Sawmills Ltd., as well as details of wood allocations to 15 First Nations communities.
The department also plans to post a detailed map, which will show Crown timber licences, protected areas, deer habitat areas, watercourses and wetland buffers, old forest habitats, and deer wintering areas, Landry said.